A Maryland mother of four has been charged in the murder of her two toddlers in an attempt to perform an exorcism. Zakieya Latrice Avery was arrested on Friday and charged with the deaths of her 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son. Monifa Denise Sanford was also charged in the murder of the two toddlers. She was arrested on Saturday after a short stay in the hospital from injuries she received during the exorcism attempt.
Avery, who is 28-years-old, and her partner in crime Sanford, who is only 21-years-old, have been charged with two counts of first-degree murder along with two counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection with attacks on Avery’s 5-year-old daughter, Taniya Harris and 8-year-old son, Martello Harris. The two oldest children, Martello and Taniya, were both hospitalized with serious injuries and reportedly have been improving.
Police were called to Avery’s townhouse on Friday morning after a neighbor saw a bloody knife outside of an unattended car with an open door. Law enforcement removed the keys from inside the car and used them to enter the home.
Once police entered the home they found a bloody scene along with Avery in proximity to one of the children. She quickly ran out of the back door in hopes of getting away. Avery was quickly captured and taken into custody. Sanford was also in the home but was taken to the hospital due to injuries she had suffered during the killings.
The deceased toddlers, Norell Harris and his sister Zyana Harris, were found in a bedroom on the upstairs level of the home. They were already dead by the time the police officers located them.
Officers had been called to the home Thursday night but did not go inside. It is believed that the series of events surrounding the death of the two youngest children, as well as the injuries of the two oldest, began on Thursday night.
On Thursday around 9:45 p.m. a man called 911 to report that an unattended child was in a car outside of Avery’s Germantown home. As he was making the report two women came out of the townhouse and took the child inside. When the officers arrived and knocked on Avery’s door they received no answer.
The officers did not push the issue because they did not hear or see anything that would cause them to believe anyone was in danger. They witnessed no signs of a possible exorcism going on. Just as a precaution the officers said they called Child Protective Services and the agency said it would follow-up on Friday morning.
Friday morning proved to be too late for the younger two children who had already been stabbed to death. At that time the two oldest were taken to a hospital for treatment of severe injuries.
Tom Manger, Montgomery County Police Chief, said that his department’s thoughts were with the victim’s family and friends along with law enforcement, 911 operators, fire and EMS personnel and evidence technicians who responded to the call.
Zakieya Avery and Monifa Sanford have both been charged in the murder of Avery’s two youngest children. These women have also been charged with attempted murder for trying to kill Avery’s oldest two children. It was reported that Avery and Sanford believed they were performing an exorcism when the children were assaulted; they believed they were releasing demonic spirits that had possessed the children. Both women have been booked in the Montgomery County jail and are being held without bond.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
My Fox DC